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Encouraging signs

Investment will help the region's air cargo growth to continue

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According to Boeing’s eagerly awaited World Air Cargo Forecast 2006/2007, world air cargo traffic (freight and mail) will grow at an average annual rate of 6.1% over the 2006-2025 period.

For an industry that has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs in the last five years, the figures will be most welcome.

After bumper growth of 12.0% in 2004, the year 2005 saw worldwide air cargo traffic grow just 2.0% year on year. In the first six months of 2006, traffic growth was slightly better, though still modest, at 3.1% year on year.

The question for readers of this editorial is how these headline figures relate to the Middle East. According to figures supplied to Air Cargo Middle East & India by Airports Council International, the GCC’s top five airports by volume experienced mostly good news in the first half of 2006.

Air cargo throughput in Dubai, for example, reached 712,076 tonnes in the Jan-June period, a rise of 15.6% year on year. Abu Dhabi enjoyed 14.6% growth and Sharjah 17.1% growth year on year.

Bahrain’s growth was slightly lower, at 5.7%, whereas Jeddah saw a drop of 6.0% year on year.

Outside of these top five airports, only Riyadh and two airports in Yemen saw declines in traffic.

Airports such as Fujairah, Dammam, Muscat and Ras Al Khaimah all enjoyed significant percentage increases in air cargo throughput in the first half. Out of 15 airports in the GCC, eleven enjoyed growth above the global average of 3.1%.

This growth in traffic is encouraging and regional aviation authorities are investing heavily to make sure the growth continues.

Airport development plans in Dubai and Abu Dhabi may catch most of the headlines, but ambitious expansion projects are underway all over the GCC, even in smaller airports like Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

Thanks to the GCC’s geographical location and the commitment of regional governments, growth in air cargo traffic is an economic boon being enjoyed across the GCC.

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